Books, podcasts & virtual visits: 12+ resources to help study the Doctrine and Covenants from the Church History Department

Don’t be an “ugly tourist” when studying history, advises Matthew J. Grow, managing director of the Church History Department

“A British novelist said in the mid-20th century that ‘the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there,’” Grow said in a recent interview with the Church News. 

“We want to go immerse ourselves in the culture, we want to listen more than we talk, we want to hear what they’re saying. And some things are going to be very different,” he said.  

Grow pointed out several resources from the Church historians to help those studying the historical context of the Doctrine and Covenants this year. Unless otherwise noted, these are available on the Church’s Gospel Library online and in the app under “Restoration and Church History.” 

“Revelations in Context: The Stories Behind the Sections of the Doctrine of Covenants” is a resource to help study the Doctrine and Covenants.
“Revelations in Context: The Stories Behind the Sections of the Doctrine of Covenants” is a resource to help study the Doctrine and Covenants. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

• “Revelations in Context”: Shares about a “particular moment in time” and includes articles about sections of the Doctrine and Covenants that came at about the same time.  

“The article takes us to the life of an individual and it helps you see how those revelations came, what questions prompted the revelations through that particular man or woman who lived in the early church,” he said.  

• “Saints” project: A four-volume narrative history of the Church.  

“‘Saints’ gives you the picture of how the whole story fits together,” Grow said. While making it historically accurate, “we also are trying to tell the story in a way that is captivating. … ” 

“So we’re trying to have historical accuracy, and a high level of readability to tell this really incredible story of the Church. It’s a story of faith, it’s a story of devotion.” 

The first volume, “The Standard of Truth” covers 1815 to 1846, through the building of the Nauvoo Temple. The second volume, “No Unhallowed Hand,” covers 1847 to 1893, which is the Saints moving west to the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. Volume 3 is being written now and will go through 1955 with the dedication of the Bern Switzerland Temple.  

• Church History Topics: A couple of hundred short essays on various topics related to Church history.  

“It puts those topics in the context and includes links to other resources,” Grow said.

Episode 19: Director of Church History on connecting to the people in the Doctrine and Covenants

• “Doctrine and Covenants Historical Resources”:  Following the schedule “Doctrine and Covenants — Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families,” it has the links to the chapters in “Saints,” the essay in “Revelations in Context,” and the relevant “Church History Topics,” places and biographies.  

• Joseph Smith Papers: “The Joseph Smith Papers is really foundational for everything else we’re doing on the Church’s beginnings, on Joseph Smith’s lifetime. It’s the effort to bring together in one place on the web at JosephSmithPapers.org, every business record, every legal record, all of his journals, all of its histories, so that we have the most access to them possible.” 

The “Doctrine and Covenants Historical Resources” shares links to sections of the Doctrine and Covenants and people can see the handwritten revelations, Grow said.  

“For those who want an even deeper dive, go to the Joseph Smith Papers. And it’s amazing the information that we have on these early revelations.” 

The book cover of "The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women's History."
The book cover of “The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History.” Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

• “The First 50 Years of Relief Society”: This “is a documentary history of Relief Society,” Grow said.  

• “At the Pulpit”: It “is sermons that women have given in every decade of the Church’s existence,” he said.  

•  “The Discourses of Eliza R. Snow”: “We’re releasing them in batches, so you can go and find a bunch now, and if you go back in six months, there’ll be a bunch more,” he said. It is available on the Church Historian’s website at churchhistorianspress.org

•  “The Diaries of Emmeline B. Wells”: She was such an important leader and thinker among Latter-day Saint women as well,” Grow said. It is available on the Church Historian’s website at churchhistorianspress.org.

“The Priesthood Restored: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast” was released on Jan. 14, 2021.
“The Priesthood Restored: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast” was released on Jan. 14, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

•  Podcasts 

— “The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast”: Six-episode miniseries that was released in 2020 for the bicentennial of the First Vision.  

“It takes us through what we know about the First Vision (and) what we don’t know,” Grow said. 

— “The Priesthood Restored: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast”: Six-episode miniseries released earlier this year on the restoration of the priesthood.  

“It takes you through all the information of what we know, all the perspectives about the priesthood restoration … and takes us even up to the present in terms of what’s the ongoing restoration of the priesthood, what does that mean through Church history,” Grow said. 

— Upcoming this year: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast on the Nauvoo Temple.  

Sister Karly Robison and Sister Meg Taylor, missionaries serving at the Nauvoo historic sites, give a virtual tour in front of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple. Because of COVID-19, Church historic sites have been closed since March 2020.
Sister Karly Robison and Sister Meg Taylor, missionaries serving at the Nauvoo historic sites, give a virtual tour in front of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple. Because of COVID-19, Church historic sites have been closed since March 2020. Credit: Courtesy the Nauvoo Historic Sites

•  Virtual tours at the Church’s historic sites 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Church’s historic sites were closed to visitors in 2020. The missionaries there found ways to adapt the in-person tours to virtual tours. See each individual site’s website to sign up for a tour time.  

How the Church historic sites are fulfilling their purpose during the pandemic

People “from over 60 countries have visited the church historic sites through these virtual tours,” he said. “And we’re thrilled that the pandemic accelerated our vision of how we could share these sites, with Saints all around the world.”